Auckland Blue have qualified through to the NZRL National 20s Grand Final with a game to spare, after beating Northland 48-8 on Saturday to remain unbeaten in the competition so far.
Four tries, three of which were converted by debutant Johnson Murray, saw Auckland take a 22-8 lead into the break and come the second stanza they found another gear.
The Auckland left edge was outstanding, with centre Ben Kosi scoring twice and back-rower Wiremu Kaire enjoying a strong outing despite a stint in the sin bin late in the game.
Mt Albert playmaker Murray marked his first outing in the competition with a try and five conversions, while Howick’s Lonnie Papani made the most of his chance to start at dummy-half by scoring a try and causing countless issues for the Northland defence.
Auckland Blue have a catch up game next Saturday against Waicoa Bay – to make up for the game they missed during the region’s COVID-19 lockdown last month – before they face Central Districts, South Island or Waicoa Bay in the decider on April 10 at Opaheke Park.
Auckland 48 (Viliami Finau, Ben Kosi x2, Izaac Anitelea, Anthony Naitoko, Lonnie Papani, Albert Fifita, Johnson Murray, Jeremiah Schuster tries; Johnson Murray x5, Izaac Anitelea x1 conversions) def. Northland 8 (Tytan Semenoff, Nigel Iro tries) at Whangarei Stadium. HT: 22-8.